A Holiday Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

A decade ago, on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year’s, a handsome man I had never seen before walked through the door at my parent’s annual Holiday Dance. “Who is that?” I said out loud. I walked over, introduced myself and now we have two kids, four broken-down vehicles in our yard and a whole lot of memories of the meandering path that brought us here.

Oh, and there’s going to be a wedding! Nope, not ours; we believe in loooong engagements. Tony’s oldest, Molly, is getting hitched to my nephew, Jordan, and we all get to have double titles from now on. I’ll be Jordan’s aunt and his stepmom-in-law. Julian will be Molly’s brother and cousin. Iris will be Jordan’s first cousin and his sister-in-law. Tony will be Jordan’s father-in-law and uncle. You get the gist. Most people get kind of quiet and wide-eyed when we laugh about this, but we don’t mind. Their looks of confusion and mild distaste remind me we need to do something about those four broken-down vehicles in the yard.

Our first year as a family of four – with Tony’s four older daughters flitting in and out from time to time – has been, well, … messy. I’d seriously consider using all the money I make at my Grandma Grace’s resort cleaning cabins to hire someone to clean our cabin if it weren’t for the fact that we know everyone who lives around here. Our mess will have to stay our own.

Iris, who is in first grade and turns seven at the end of January, continues to make one beautiful mess after the other, setting up puppet shows, song and dance performances, all manner of arts and crafts, and a fun favorite: indoor athletic obstacle courses. She dances from joy to joy, happy as a clam, even when I’m grumpy at her for not cleaning up her mess or turning down her joyful noise.

Julian, who just turned one, is our bull in the proverbial China shop. If there’s an electric cord, string of any sort or even a hanging plant accessible, he pulls on it until he finds out what’s on the other end. If there’s something that will rip, he likes to see how many pieces he can create. If there’s food to be squished, buttons to be pushed, drawers to be pulled or saliva to be drooled, he’s on the job.

Tony’s mess is chock full of hunting gear, grilling accessories, books he’s read and everything woodworking. He both bow- and rifle-hunted this year, putting two deer in our freezer. Iris especially loves the venison jerky he makes, asking for it in her school lunches long after we’ve run out. I appreciate the mess we don’t make in the kitchen when he asks “What’s for dinner? Want me to grill?” The Traeger pellet grill and smoker he got last Christmas sure wasn’t granted an easy life when it came to live at our home. He loves it and uses it many times a week. Smoked boiled eggs? So good.

I continue to play at music, jewelry making, sewing, driftwood art and my writing, keeping at least three corners of the house messy with more than is required for all of those undertakings. I wrote a column for the Warroad Pioneer for four years and sadly watched it close its doors this past spring. Without the forcing function of a deadline, writing fell to the back burner until this past fall when I began to write in earnest on my first novel. I say “first” with confidence, because whether this book comes to something or not, the joy I get from the process tells me all I need to know about what I’m meant to be doing. If only there were self-cleaning houses and children and yards so I wouldn’t have to stop so often or worry about what the neighbors think when Iris is left-unattended, using the broken-down vehicles as climbing structures.

Of Tony’s girls, Molly is now in Washington state, Sophie is in Grand Forks, and Maggie and Evangeline are busy with hockey and school. We see them whenever we can and miss them always.

We are blessed to have both sets of Grandparents close-by. Deb and Marvin still live on the westernmost point of Flag Island and we love to visit them when busy life and the water or ice allows. My folks, Bill and Linda, are still in “The Big House”, as we’ve all come to call their big log cabin. If I’m even a minute late to pick-up Iris from school, she runs across the road to visit them before I can track her down.

Our little parcel of land, adjacent to my folks’ land and the resort, now has a dirt driveway and a cleared plot for our future house. When the ground thaws in the spring, we’ll get the remaining stumps pulled and gravel poured to make it ready for building. It will be lovely to live walking-distance to the school, the lake and the Knight / Prothero side of the family.

Tony is still a summer fishing guide and The Angle’s UPS driver, wearing out vehicle after vehicle on the long Angle road. Kids in tow, I fill in driving as needed and help at the resort. Life is trucking right along. Our kids are healthy. And we’re all decently happy with our messy lot in life. We’d sure welcome a visit from anyone who wants to see our little corner of the world. Or get ready, and maybe we’ll come to you!

From our mess to yours, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and have the most amazing New Year and new decade!


-Kellie, Tony, Iris & Julian

Why Did the Porcupine Cross the Road?

We all rode to town together on Friday. It’s an hour+ drive, so it’s no small thing. We packed the diaper bag, installed the car seats and rushed through our morning in order to leave by 8AM. The whole way to town, the 6-year old watched her tablet. the 8-month old slept, and Tony and I argued. Continue reading “Why Did the Porcupine Cross the Road?”


Several times over the past week I sat down to write about the serious topics at hand and it just didn’t work. I thought I was ready, and I am, but life as it tends to do had other plans.

When it comes to writing, I’ve learned not to force it. It’s no good if I do. The words will come when they’re ready. When conditions are right. Like the weather. Or spring blooms. Or a good bowel movement.

“Mom, why is there poop on the carpet?” the six-year old asked loudly. Continue reading “Surrounded”

Life by the Rules

Like your average ever-maturing human, I usually have to try something my own way before following the tried and true “recipe” that countless others have laid out online free for the taking. My stubbornness, surprise surprise, leads to a lot of wasted time and spent energy. Still, the older I get, the less I like “rules”. Accepting the rule of authority and the advice of so-called experts can feel staid and confining.

But after yet another night of dropping into bed mentally exhausted and on the verge of tears for AGAIN feeling like a failure as a parent, I decided it was time for hard-and-fast Family Rules that would be written down for all to see Continue reading “Life by the Rules”

What’s Eating Rural America?

Mental Health in our Rural Communities (Part 1)

We are Northerners. We are small-town Americans. We come from hearty stock. Our backs are strong and our wills, even stronger. We don’t like handouts. We work. We live. We persevere. We are mentally tough and emotionally ready.

Or at least we’d like to think so.

Despite being far from the speed and the bustle of the city, regardless of our clean air and pristine water, even with our close-knit communities and disproportionately large numbers claiming faith, we rural folk are not immune to the stress of the modern-day world. We still fall prey to Continue reading “What’s Eating Rural America?”



It wasn’t the first time he’d come to visit me in Seattle, but it was the most significant. Raw and wounded from his recent separation and impending divorce, my older brother and his young daughter made the three hour drive up from Portland late in the day on Thanksgiving and stayed only one night. It would have been the first holiday they’d spend alone, and I had insisted he come join my circle.

Continue reading “Precious”

Bringing the Light

(Column 49 – published in the Jan 31st Warroad Pioneer)

My time for despair is over.

Several times in previous columns I have said that this writing-it-down, this metabolizing it onto paper through my soul’s fingers is my therapy. Like walking or talking or exercise, it is the way I work through the suffering, coming out leaner, stronger, more open to the grace that is my everyday compass.

My previous column entitled “Not Ready to Make Nice” was written through the lens of despair, and surprisingly, to no one more than me, it was well-read. It was called both “hate-filled” and “inspiring.” I was called both “courageous” and “a petulant child.”

January 24th edition of the Warroad Pioneer

My intention now isn’t to rebut the rebuttal, but I do think it’s vitally important to continue the conversation. It must start in towns like ours, between disagreeing neighbors like us, about issues that seem so irreconcilable now. If not here in our home, than where? If we cannot heal the great divide even in our small communities, how will we fix the very big and very real problems facing humanity and our planet?

The divide is real and scary ugly, as we can all feel. Both sides believe they are standing in Truth. Both sides feel attacked and denigrated. Both sides, in the end, want the same things: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But I don’t want that for just some of us…I want it for All.

All beating hearts deserve a comfortable life, freedom to be who they are, and a chance at happiness. White males are not more deserving than brown. Men are not more deserving than women. Soldiers are not more deserving than struggling welfare moms.

Once upon a time, I stood in line with my WIC coupons clutched tightly to my chest, and my daughter visits the local dentist and optometrist thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Am I any less deserving of happiness than anyone else?

Simplified to the utmost: God loves his children as one.

We are more than just Angleites or Warroadians or Minnesotans. We are more than Americans. Those of us on the “left,” the ones being called snowflakes and elitests and libtards, seem to feel the call to a global citizenship more keenly than others. But that is how some of us are meant to serve the greater good. We are the tender-minded and the kind-hearted, and it is our place to bring empathy and teach compassion to those who do not come by those qualities as easily.

There are some very tough-minded and hard-hearted people in charge now. It is a different brand of leadership than the US has known in many decades. We all have a responsibility to ensure the marginalized members of our society and our planet do not get pushed aside (or worse) in the name of profit or false patriotism.

A child starves to death every four seconds, and we are wrong if we think it doesn’t impact every single one of us. The suffering is collective. The pain and misery and the need to blame has become epidemic. But even acid rain can transform into snowflakes.

I know my language is that of an idealist. And I’m not ashamed. I will always write what I am called to. I will always ask God to guide my words. I will always be grateful to a community that doesn’t throw literal rocks.

To the brave few, specifically Paul King, Brenda McFarlane and Ron Storey, who publicly voiced their opposition to my viewpoints, I am grateful and I forgive you. I hope you will forgive me when you are ready.

January 24th edition of the Warroad Pioneer

Forgiveness is where it begins.

We needn’t try to change each other; that would only be messing with God’s creations.

My hope is that through our disagreements and our despair, through our words that land so differently depending on the ears, that we can come to truly “see” and appreciate each other. I have not seen you and you do not see me. That, in large part, is the root of my despair. We are utterly disconnected.

This is far more than a political battle. This is spiritual warfare, and it’s going to get much worse before it gets better.

We as individuals will never be “whole” while we cannot see each other.

I once expressed my belief that we don’t need the right to own the kind of guns that were designed solely for the mass slaughter of human beings. My brother, whom I love dearly but completely disagree with, then labeled me as one of those people who “lay down and die.”

I still don’t know exactly what he meant, but I assume it’s something akin to “snowflake.” If you are inclined to read the thoughts of an 18-year ministry veteran on that term, search for John Pavlovitz and “A Snowflake Manifesto.”

My brother’s words “lay down and die” have stayed with me, teaching me. When my ego is not smarting from his intentions to injure me, my thoughts often turn to the old story about a marauding overlord and his followers who swept through the land raping, killing and plundering. They came to a monastery high in the mountains and demanded that all the monks leave or be killed at once. Grateful to be spared, every monk did so except for one. When the men reported to their leader that there was one monk who refused to leave, the overlord became enraged. Never having been disobeyed before, the furious overlord made his way to the seated monk, held his sword at the man’s throat and screamed, “Don’t you know that I can kill you at this moment?”

The monk calmly replied, “Don’t you know that I can let you?”

In that instant, the overlord dropped his sword and fell to his knees, transformed.

That is what I pray for. That is what I will fight towards. Yes, the time for despair has passed. Now it’s time to get back to bringing the light.

January 31 edition of the Warroad Pioneer